Eric Holder’s left many baleful legacies: being censured by the House of Representatives; withholding subpoenaed documents, proving untruthful about a failed gun-walking caper in Mexico; failing to enforce laws on the books, from immigration to the elements of the Affordable Care Act; illegally billing the government for his own private use of a government Gulfstream jet; snooping on Associated Press reporters; giving de facto exemptions to renegade IRS politicos; and trying to create civilian trials for terrorist killers like KSM, one of the architects of the 9/11 attacks. But he will be known mostly for re-teaching Americans to think of race as essential, not incidental, to our characters.
He accomplished that unfortunate legacy in a number of ways. Holder waded into the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown fatal shootings before all the facts were known in a manner no local public prosecutor would dare do so. He claimed that the unpopularity of Barack Obama was due to racial animosity, apparently forgetful that not long ago, in the era of Bush Derangement Syndrome, novels and movies were published and produced fantasizing about the assassination of George W. Bush, who was compared to Nazis and fascists, by everyone from Al Gore to John Glenn. I assume Holder was then quiet about such alarming disparagement of his president; and also I assume that when Obama in 2009 had near 70% approval ratings, for Holder the nation was anything but cowardly.
Of course, Holder infamously called Americans “cowards” for not being as obsessed in the same way with race as he was. He referred to African-Americans as “my people,” a sloppy aside that might have gotten any other attorney general fired for such cheap ethnic chauvinism — except that his own boss had once called for Latinos to punish “our enemies” and on the campaign trail had talked of “typical white person.” Holder chose to drop the New Black Panther case in a way that highlighted racial matters — apparently coming armed with clubs to a voting precinct is hardly unusual — in the same way that he suggested that those states that might require an ID to vote (in the manner we produce IDs to write a check or use a credit card) were racist, in the same way that he suggested that states like Arizona that wanted federal immigration law enforced were acting out of racialist motives.
In other words, in the reprehensible vision of Eric Holder, how we look governs who we are. He either believes in the desirability of such racialist exceptionalism out of cultural and historic ignorance — given the contemporary evidence of where bumper-sticker racial, ethnic and religious jingoism inevitably leads (cf. e.g., Iraq, Rwanda, the Congo, Serbia, Bosnia, etc.) — or he cynically assumes that the more the country is polarized racially, the more elites like himself are called on to adjudicate differences, and thus advance to positions that they might otherwise not have earned either by their prior record or their present display of minimal competence.
I do not say that lightly. Holder, remember, prior to his ascension as attorney general, was largely known for two things, both bad: one, he navigated Bill Clinton’s disgraceful 11th hour pardon of the late felon Mark Rich (Rich was in theory facing a possible 300 years in prison for dozens of felonies [including trading with arch-enemy Iran, then holding U.S. hostages] when he bolted, escaped arrest and fled to Switzerland). Then-Deputy Attorney General Holder sidestepped a number of normal Justice Department procedures and failed to disclose that Rich’s wife (later divorced) had already given or would be likely to give $1 million to the Democratic Party, $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and nearly a half-million dollars to the Clinton presidential library. So much for social justice and the deplorable privilege of the elite.